MasterWish LogoI am happy to say that MasterWish.com is getting some fantastic feedback from the user community!

While we are not about to stop improving the site it is fantastic to see feedback like this weblog entry from Kevin Scaldeferri’s Weblog. Glad you liked the site Kevin! In our hectic, fast paced, information-heavy world I’m glad to hear people appreciate our less-is-more attitude.

MasterWish was founded on the ideal of offering flexibility… a tool that a person uses the way they want to, not the way we think they should. This feedback helps guide us to continue to develop in this direction.

Thanks Kevin!

For more information on MasterWish, check out my previous article, or go straight to masterwish.com and check it out for yourself!

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National Weather Service LogoThe National Weather Service has once again provided a wealth of information on Hurricane Wilma. Check out their page on Wilma for projected path, satellite images (updated every 30 minutes) and much more.

You won’t find any videos of the destruction, or suicidal news reporters out in 100 MPH winds, but you will find plenty of factual information about the storm.

Wondering what the next name is after Wilma? The list of names (maintained by the World Meteorological Orginization) does not use names starting with x, y, or z, so after Wilma we will move on to Hurricane Alpha, then Beta, Gamma, etc. throught the greek alphabet. For more information on hurricane naming, check out the National Hurricane Center’s page on the topic.

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Make Magazine’s weblog has an article today on Nasa’s Blue Marble.

It seems Nasa has taken it upon themselves to provide a season-changing flyover of the world. Watch this video (my favorite) cycle through the equivalent of 4 years seasons while you fly from the Gulf of Mexico to New England. This short video must be the coolest thing since Google Earth.

Even more dramatic is the video of the Alps, but the video that will change how you picture our planet is the main tour, which pans over a major portion of the globe over several years worth of seasons.

Check out NASA’s page on The Blue Marble for more info, some high resolution satellite photos, and more.

What next? I’d like to see Google Earth offer the ability to dial a season when flying around.

Thanks to Make Magazine for posting this.

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high waterWondering how high the water really was when I came over the temporary bridge on the Pemigewasset into Plymouth this morning I went straight to the folks who track these things.

The U.S. Geological Survey tracks river and stream data for many points on many streams in the US and they’re nice enough to put it on their website. Their site will never win any awards for web design, but the information is there, even with a webcam (updated hourly or so.) The information on the Pemi in Plymouth is available here, or look up realtime streamflow data for your area here.

The USGS also posts great historical data on their site if you’re interested in doing some data mining!

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With the growing popularity of distance education (The University of Phoenix claims to be the largest accredited school in the US) I wonder how long it will be until you can “outsource” your class work.

Several schools offer distance education in a model which is designed to accommodate students who never set foot on a campus. While this is compelling to the university, who does not have to provide a classroom, lights, heat, parking, and it is compelling to the student who is freed from the restrictions of class times and travel, does this model open the door to a new form of cheating?

An industrious company based somewhere that labor is cheap, could offer a “tutoring” service for online education. If someone had the means (price of enrollment plus a couple hundred dollars per course), they could enroll in an online course for their undergraduate, masters, or even doctoral degree and pass off their username and password to a proxy scholar. The proxy scholar then would complete the class work from anywhere in the world, and the class is applied to the degree of the purchaser.

Sound far fetched? In the game industry “farming” is common practice. Farming is when players play the game, by the rules, and once they acquire items within the game they sell them for real money! To avoid the problems with selling something that is intellectual property of the game producers, farmers sell their time invested in obtaining the item, but essentially the purchaser is buying the item. For more information on this, check out borkweb.com’s article World of Warcrack and the future of MMOGs

Perhaps more concerning is this example of three teachers at a technical college in Georgia who are being accused of this exact crime. While it is currently unclear if money changed hands, it is believed that another individual not associated with the college completed course work under the name of these three teachers.

So how can colleges combat these “proxy scholars?” Of course there are academic integrity policies in place, but they are unlikely to detour the student looking for the easy way out. PKI solutions and biometrics have their own scary side-effects and anyone who thinks they can’t be forged is not paying attention.

I am afraid we will only hear more about this type of fraud. Hopefully institutions offering distance education can develop a way to mitigate this outsourcing of class work before it devalues the online work that so many students are legitimately achieving.

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